Posted by: nataliaxorozco | October 28, 2019

You Work, I Profit: The WeWork Implosion

As Dainton and Zelley write in Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life, “…simply because a leader articulates a value system does not make it so” (2019, p. 166). This could not be more clearly illustrated than in the recent near-bankruptcy of the office-sharing company, WeWork. While providing the guise of a process-culture (Deal & Kennedy, 1982) with a mission of “creating a world where people make a life, not just a living” its CEO and founder Adam Neumann was actually practicing a bet-the-company culture (Deal & Kennedy, 1982) that resulted in big payouts for him and huge losses for the company’s stakeholders. Once the hero of his company’s values of community and authenticity, Neumann is now undoubtedly the villain.

However, WeWork’s fall is only so pronounced because it managed to rise to a level of substantial success in the first place. Thompson writes that Neumann is a successful ‘grifter’ because he “…burnished his company’s reputation by telling employees and members that, by doing normal jobs in a place that set its ambitions at the level of human consciousness, they could be participants in a grand fusion of profit and purpose.” (WeWork’s Adam Neumann Is the Most Talented Grifter of Our Time, 2019). 

With WeWork’s bailout and Neumann’s buyout, the question remains: “After a crisis, how can a company still demonstrate its corporate values to stakeholders?” (Gibbs, Communicating Corporate Values After a Crisis, 2019).  WeWork will have to grapple with this question as it faces job cuts and tries to regain its lost reputation. But for those who bought into the company’s mission and values, to begin with, a larger question remains: how can we keep good missions and stories from obscuring our ability to see beyond the artifice?

 

References

Daiton, M., & Zelley, E.D. (2019).Organizational communication.        In Applying Communication Theory for Professional Life: A Practical Introduction(4th ed., pp. 161-179). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Gibbs, R. (2019). Communicating corporate values after a crisis. Strategies & Tactics: The Crucial Role of Corporate Communications Today, 2, 10.

Thompson, D. (2019). WeWork’s Adam Neumann is the most talented grifter of our time. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/how-weworks-adam-neumann-became-billionaire/600607/


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